Latest updates for businesses affected by COVID-19

Visit England have shared a round-up of the latest updates, including the announcement of an increase in cap on COVID support grants, Government measures to support the reopening of outdoor hospitality, the opportunity to input into the Global Travel Taskforce and other relevant guidance updates. Subsidy allowance increases and application deadlines for COVID support grants

The cap on COVID support grants has been increased from £3m to £10.9m for businesses in England and the guidelines for local authorities have been updated. In summary for businesses it means:

  • Grants under the Small Amounts of Financial Assistance Allowance, the COVID-19 Business Grant Allowance and the COVID-19 Business Grant Special Allowance may be combined for a potential total allowance of £10,935,000 (subject to the exact amount applicable under the Small Amounts of Financial Assistance Allowance using the Special Drawing Right calculator).

  • The updated scheme rules do not apply retrospectively. Therefore, where a Local Authority has previously rejected an applicant’s application before Thursday 4 March on the grounds that the applicant had reached previous scheme limits, the Local Authority must not revisit this decision. The applicant may however submit a new application if still within a current payment cycle.

  • Local Authorities should not accept applications or make retrospective payments to those businesses where the payment cycle has passed.

The following guidance has been updated with details of the new subsidy allowance and/or deadlines for applications:

  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (for closed businesses) and LRSG (closed) Addendum: Tier 4) – application deadline 31 March 2021

  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG (Open)) application deadline 31 March 2021

  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG (Sector)) – application deadline 31 March 2021

  • Closed Business Lockdown Payment – application deadline 31 March 2021

  • Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG)

Businesses should apply using their local council’s website.

Support for the reopening of outdoor hospitality The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick has written a letter to local authorities outlining that in Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap (no earlier than 12 April) hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors and the measures to support the safe re-opening of hospitality businesses. The letter states:

Al fresco dining

  • Continuation of the simplified route for pubs, restaurants and cafes to obtain a temporary pavement licence to place furniture including outdoor tables and seating on the highway, including a capped application fee of £100 and a 10-working day consultation and determination period.

  • Licences to be granted for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons not to, and an expectation that licences granted under these provisions to continue to apply into this summer so that businesses do not have to reapply or be charged a further application fee when they are able to re-open to serve customers outdoors.

  • Currently due to expire on 30 September 2021, but subject to Parliamentary approval, this will be extended for a further 12 months.

Freedom to use land for community events and outdoor hospitality

  • Continuation of greater flexibility for businesses to hold outdoor events such as summer fairs or motorsports on land without the need for a planning application.

  • Car-boot sales, or people or businesses such as pubs wishing to set up marquees will also be exempt.

  • Such temporary events to be allowed for 56 days until 31 December 2021.

Outdoor markets

  • A new temporary right, extended to March 2022, that allows local authorities, either by themselves or by others on their behalf, to use land to hold a market without having to apply for planning permission.

Takeaways

  • Measures to support restaurants, drinking establishments such as pubs and cafes to serve takeaway food when they were otherwise closed due to coronavirus restrictions extended until March 2022.

Business Events reopening guidance approved by DCMS (England) There has been clarity around the situation regarding the conditions under which events will operate from 17 May and 21 June. The Government have specified that in Step 3, which is no earlier than 17 May, sectors which will be reopening include some large events, including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports events. Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower. There will still be social distancing and other interventions for events running in Step 3.

Pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing or using other mitigations such as testing.

The Government will use this research to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.

The degree of relaxation of social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions will be determined by the pilot test events to be held during April with the results incorporated into the Step 3 & 4 reopening guidance.

On this basis, businesses are strongly advised to ensure their customers are aware of the likelihood of continuing restrictions after reopening.

Businesses can register to order free lateral flow tests for employees Businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees. The lateral flow tests will remain free until the end of June and registration closes on 31 March. More information on rapid workplace testing is available on an online portal for businesses as well as information to plan and deliver a testing programme.

Have your say on the reopening of international travel The Secretary of State Grant Shapps chaired the first meeting of the new Global Travel Taskforce last week to set out a plan for restarting international travel in a safe and sustainable way.

The Terms of Reference for the Global Travel Taskforce have now been published. There is an opportunity to offer your thoughts and share any written evidence or ideas by emailing globaltraveltaskforce@dft.gov.uk. Air Passenger Duty consultation to launch in spring

  • As part of the Prime Minister’s announcement on his vision to boost connectivity across the UK with improved transport infrastructure, a consultation is due to launch this spring on reforming Air Passenger Duty tax.

Other guidance updates:

  • New ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus guidance is available. This includes guidance for workplaces.

  • VAT information updates have been added to the VAT on admission charges to attractions and VAT reduced rate for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions guidance.

  • The page on applying for the Zoo Animals Fund has been updated to reflect the extension of the deadline to 28 May, and the scheme deadline to 30 June.

  • Updated guidance for the use of waterways in England - all boating activity on waterways should follow the guidance set out here.